RL Property Management Group has managed several hundred duplex and multifamily properties in and around Columbus, OH, and have tried every different way to bill for water/sewage. We have included it in rent as a flat fee, split the city bill evenly between units, and sub-metered usage by a third-party sub-metering company.
Our recommendation is sub-metering, for the following reasons:
You will get monthly usage reads instead of quarterly (the city of Columbus and most surrounding suburbs standard billing/read cycle), so any leaks or other abnormal usage can be addressed faster (this one benefit alone could save you thousands on a water bill). Even when vacant you'll be able to see what's going on with water usage. Lifesaver in winter especially.
Because it's more fair for the tenants (they are billed for their exact usage), they are more likely to renew their lease and/or just behave better. I'm also not sure how a judge would feel about billing tenants 50/50 if you can't prove how much each side used.
It's essentially free for landlords (at least with Guardian) once it's set up, because the cost of the service is included in the tenant's monthly bill. This service fee is nominal (a small percentage of the billing amount).
Using the quarterly city water/sewer bill, it's an issue at move-in and move-out to prorate the tenants usage since the tenancy won't line up with the billing periods. With submetering, you can provide readings at move-in and move-out and thus bill the tenants precisely for their usage.
Many duplexes and multifamily properties in Columbus already have either submeters for both sides, or a "master-deduct" system where there is 1 submeter for 1 side and they subtract that usage from the main city meter to determine the other side (not ideal though, see above for the reasons). Rarely (very rarely) you will actually find a duplex that has 2 city meters. If you buy a duplex, take a careful look and you may find an old submeter that is hooked up and either inoperable or simply not in use. Get that up and running; you'll be happy you did.
If you are looking for a property management team that has several decades of experience dealing with nothing but property management including the issues described above, do not hesitate to reach out to RL Property Management Group. Contact Us.
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